I was the project engineer on a project based in Kazakhstan earlier in the year. This meant I got to deal with Kazakhstanis (designers), Russians (translators), Turks (construction group) and Poms/South Africans/Aussies (those who worked for the backers of the project).
During this time, I learnt a lot about Kazakhstan culture and traditions. I learnt Kazakhstan is about 30 years behind Australia (surprising because I always thought Australia was way behind everyone else in the world). I met engineers from Kazakhstan. I ate chocolates from Kazakhstan (seriously on par with Godiva and Royce). And for shits and giggles, I learnt how to write my name and the word ‘awesome’ in Russian. Naturally.
White Fever is about the journey of one man, through the heart of Siberia, in the middle of winter, in a modified local car which cost him more than it should have. And more than a new car in the US. Crazy, if you ask me. I mean, who in their right mind would transverse through an open abyss of nothingness, in a country with one of the harshest weather systems? Alone?!
Point A: Moscow
Point B: Kazan (with a side trip to Izhevsk)
Point C: Ufa
Point D: Chelyabinsk
Point E: Kurgan
Point F: Omsk
Point G: Novosibirsk (with a side trip to Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan)
Point H: Krasnoyarsk (with side trips to Abakan, Minusinsk and Kyzyl)
Point I: Irkutsk
Point J: Ulan Ude
Point K: Chita
Point L: Skovorodino (with a side trip to Tynda)
Point M: Khabarovsk
Point N: Vladivostok
Total Distance: Approx. 11,000km
The story doesn’t spell out exactly why he’s going on this journey but it does delve into the lives of the people he meets, stays with and takes along the way.
He meets girls like Sasha who are conscientious about each girl’s territory. Men like Igor who have suffered the harsh climate first hand and still reek of it. Boys like Andrei who went to the big city of Moscow to make something of themselves, but ended up failing.
He gets into the nitty grittys of how the country (through the people) is slowly killing itself. Alcoholism, suicide, murder and AIDS is rife and the government is in no position to help itself. A good few chapters tells about the effects of alcohol on the people.
Who knew that Siberia was like that? I guess it’s one of those nations which we know exist, but don’t actually know anything about. I mean, I tried to get stats on Siberia alone, but it would only give me stats for the whole of Russia. Now if you can’t Google the place, then you know it doesn’t really exist. The book was definitely an eye-opener for me on that part of the whole.
In my opinion, if he wanted to go to all these places, he should have just jumped on the Trans-Siberian. It makes for a more comfortable ride, so I’ve heard.
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